(NaturalNews) In yet another stunning example of scientific research fraud, the University of Connecticut leveled charges of widespread scientific fraud against a prolific researcher earlier this year. The university identified the researcher as Dr. Dipak K. Das, a director of the university's Cardiovascular Research Center (CRC) and a professor in the Department of Surgery, whose work reported on the health benefits of resveratrol and red wine.
The University of Connecticut identified instances of fraud in 26 suspect articles published in 11 journals and sent a copy of an investigative report it conducted to editors of the journals. The university said that it was freezing Dr. Das' research and returning two new grants totaling $890,000.
Dr. Das has been a prolific research publisher, with several hundred articles published, including 117 articles on resveratrol. Though leading researchers in the field do not consider Dr. Das a major research figure, there is little doubt that his work has been influential. According to Thomson Scientific's Web of Knowledge, 30 of his papers have been cited more than 100 times, including one cited 349 times and another cited 230 times.
Resveratrol is a type of natural phenol produced by several plants when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. It is also found in abundance in the skin of red grapes and in other fruits. However, red wine actually contains relatively little of it. Resveratrol has been produced by chemical and biotechnological synthesis. Nutritional resveratrol supplements are derived primarily from Japanese knotweed.
The scientific fraud and grant money were all too easy
Rather than negatively reflecting on resveratrol, the significance of the case seems more to reflect on how easy it is for researchers to doctor and invent data to produce fraudulent results and the general system of apportioning research money. Though researchers often complain that federal grants are increasingly hard to get even for high-quality research, money seemed to have flowed freely to Dr. Das.
Though the reported fraud does not invalidate other studies on the health benefits of resveratrol, it nevertheless gives an unwarranted black eye to a promising compound which other studies have indicated is anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, prevents cancer, increases energy, lowers blood sugar and extends life.
The investigation of Dr. Das's work began in January 2009, two weeks after an anonymous allegation was made to the university about research irregularities in his laboratory. A special review board produced a 60,000-page report thatwas subsequently forwarded to the Office of Research Integrity, a federal agency that investigates fraud by researchers who receive government grants.
The review board report stated that as head of the lab and senior author of all but one of the suspect articles, Dr. Das "bears principal responsibility for the fabrication and/or falsification." Furthermore, the evidence "strongly suggests" that Dr. Das was directly involved in faking images for publication and that some of the evidence was found on his personal computer.
According to the report summary, Dr. Das's published research articles were found to contain 145 instances of fabrication and falsification of data. Many involved cutting and pasting photographic images from a type of research record known as a western blot. In the past, western blots have often been subject to manipulations.
The organization Retraction Watch reported that Dr. Das has had ties with supplement companies who sell products related to his research. One company sold a resveratrol supplement and has widely promoted Dr. Das work, including using Dr. Das in a widely broadcast infomercial, where he touts resveratrol as "the new aspirin". Another company used Dr. Das to help commercialize a substance in grape skins called proanthocyanidin.